HTFinal CoverThis week on Radio Free Acton, I spoke with my colleague Elise Graveline Hilton about her new monograph A Vulnerable World: The High Price of Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking is not a pleasant subject to discuss; it can be hard to believe that in our modern world, people are still enslaved and exploited sexually or for their labor, treated as nothing more than commodities to be used in the pursuit of illegal profit. And yet the practice is widespread and growing, even in the developed world. It is incumbent upon all of us who believe in the inherent dignity of the human person to understand the nature of this awful criminal activity, to know how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, and to stand ready to assist those who are at risk of being trafficked or who have become ensnared in that dark world.

In this week’s podcast, Elise talks about her monograph and provides some basic resources for everyone interested in fighting the scourge of human trafficking. You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below; beyond the jump, I’ve included video of the event Elise organized last year at the Acton Building to shine a light on human trafficking in Acton’s home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Human Trafficking Resources:

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Through Christian’s Library Press, the Acton Institute has published four tradition-specific primers on faith, work, and economics, including Baptist, WesleyanPentecostal, and Reformed perspectives. Each offers a distinct contribution to the subject, and when taken together provides a rich and coherent framework for Christian stewardship. The books are part of Acton’s growing Oikonomia Series.

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This week, Acton and CLP will be giving away two complete sets of the series (that’s 4 books total for each winner!), including Chad Brand’s Flourishing FaithDavid Wright’s How God Makes the World a Better Place, Charlie Self’s Flourishing Churches and Communities, and John Bolt’s Economic Shalom.

The contest will end Friday night (February 13) at 11:59 p.m. To enter, use the interface below. To get started, all you need to enter is your email address! After that, there are five ways to enter, and each will increase your odds (with extra points for tweeting).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Due to certain constraints, print copies are only available to contestants who live North America. Winners who reside elsewhere will receive a digital copy.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
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Pope Francis: A Christian who does not protect creation ‘does not care about the work of God’
David Gibson, Religion News Service

If you are a Christian, protecting the environment is part of your identity, not an ideological option, Pope Francis said Monday

Bakers Who Declined Service to Same-Sex Couple Found to Violate Anti-Discrimination Law
Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal

The owners of an Oregon bakery who declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding celebration were found guilty last week of violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Prison for children ‘may increase risk’ they will commit sex offences
BBC

Imprisoning young offenders may make it more likely that they will commit sex offences, according to a study set up by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Christian Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Modern State
Donald Devine, Library of Law and Liberty

It takes one cool academic to sort through the morass of relationships between Christians and Jews over time. Sara Lipton, historian at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, might just be up to the job. Her book Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography looks at all surviving pictorial representations of Jews across European history to evaluate at least elite views of this relationship.

flowers-saleWhen Christians think of the majesty of God’s handiwork we tend to think of the visible aspects of nature. We agree with King David that, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). But there are intricate and beautiful aspects of God’s creative genius that we don’t often think about—or don’t think about as being created by God.

Take, for instance, the price system. As economist Alex Tabarrok says in the video below, “If it had been invented, the price system would be one of the most amazing creations of the human mind.” The price system is indeed an amazing creation—but of the divine mind. It’s one of God’s means of coordinating human activity for the purposes of human flourishing.

As with most good gifts given by God to humans, we are able to corrupt it and use it in ways that harm our neighbors. Yet for the most part, the price system is an ingenious method of communication that have been used to improve the human condition.

In this video, Tabbarrok explores the mystery and marvel of prices and discusses how the price system allows for people with dispersed knowledge and information to coordinate global economic activity.
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1.21411In the latest addition to Mike Rowe’s growing catalog of pointed Facebook responses, the former Dirty Jobs host tackles a question on the minimum wage, answering a man named “Darrell Paul,” who asks:

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and hour. A lot of people think it should be raised to $10.10. Seattle now pays $15 an hour, and the The Freedom Socialist Party is demanding a $20 living wage for every working person. What do you think about the minimum wage? How much do you think a Big Mac will cost if McDonald’s had to pay all their employees $20 an hour?

Rowe begins by recounting a job he had working at a movie theater for $2.90 per hour (the minimum wage in 1979). He served his customers, learned a host of new skills, and received several promotions in due course. Eventually, he decided to move on, pursuing areas closer to his vocational aspirations.

He worked. He learned. He launched.

Turning back to the present (and future), Rowe is concerned about the ways various labor policies have prodded many business owners to innovate ever-closer to full-blown automation, leading to ever-fewer opportunities for unskilled workers. “My job as an usher [at the theater] was the first rung on a long ladder of work that lead me to where I am today,” Rowe writes. “But what if that rung wasn’t there?” (more…)

pic_giant_020915_SM_Paul-Preaching-Raphael“Christianity undergirded the development of Western liberalism (in the old, good sense of the word),” says Rich Lowry. In fact, without Christianity there would probably not be anything like what we conceive as true liberty:

The indispensable role of Christianity in the creation of individual rights and ultimately of secularism itself is the subject of the revelatory new intellectual history Inventing the Individual by Larry Siedentop. Here’s hoping that President Obama gives it a quick skim before he next takes the podium at a prayer breakfast.

Siedentop begins his story with the ancients. The Greeks and Romans of pre-history weren’t secular; the family was, as Siedentop calls it, a religious cult run by the paterfamilias and suffused with ritual and assumptions of social inequality. We are all pro-family, but we can agree that ancestor worship takes it a little far.

At this time, Siedentop points out, the key distinction wasn’t between the public and private spheres, but between the public and domestic spheres, the latter characterized by the family with its rigidly defined hierarchical roles. There was no space for the individual with his or her own rights.

Read more . . .

MolinaCover - CopyCLP Academic has now released A Treatise on Money, a newly translated selection from Luis de Molina’s larger work, On Justice and Right (De iustitia et iure). The release is part of the growing series from Acton: Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law.

Molina (1535–1600) was one of the most eminent theologians of the Jesuit order in the sixteenth century. Known widely for developing a theory of human freedom of action (and in turn, a new religious doctrine now known as Molinism), Molina was also the first Jesuit to make major contributions to economic thought through a major treatise (On Justice and Right).

In the book’s introduction, Rudolf Schuessler offers more on the historical context and Molina’s contribution therein. As Schuessler explains, Molina’s views on freedom impacted his entire approach to economics and helped “set the pace for Jesuit economic thought.”

Jesuit economic thought in the seventeenth century gravitated toward individual freedom and displayed a keen appreciation of the market economy while upholding moral restrictions for market activities in a flexible and low-profile form. These features of Jesuit economic thought are of great—although not universally recognized—importance because the Jesuits were the teaching order par excellence in early modernity. Almost all early modern economic thinkers in Catholic countries were taught by the Jesuits, and Molina had the privilege to set the agenda for his order’s economic thought…

…By summarizing and discussing the state of the art of his time, Molina sets the pace for Jesuit economic thought. After the demise of the scholastic tradition and the temporary abolition of the Jesuit order in the eighteenth century, the respective doctrines traveled on back roads into the nineteenth century where they influenced the Austrian school and the marginalist revolution in economics. Molina and his contemporaries were the first to apply the laws of supply and demand systematically to money markets, and as a result conceived the quantity theory of inflation. They began to understand the role of risk, of liquidity, and of time preference in economic contexts, as well as the institutional role of property rights. For this they still deserve our attention.

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A NASA image released in February 2014 shows a night view of the Korean Peninsula. Apart from a spot of light in Pyongyang, North Korea is mostly cloaked in darkness, with China (top left) and South Korea (bottom right) on either side. -Reuters

North Korea finally decided to comment on the most famous image of the nation. Almost exactly one year ago, NASA released several photos of the earth at night, showing many brightly lit nations and a shockingly dark North Korea. Last week, the Rodong Sinmun (“Workers’ Newspaper”), a state-run North Korean newspaper, ran an editorial that addressed the photo.

This editorial, “Right in Front of Our Eyes” is fairly typical propaganda, telling North Korean citizens that they should wholeheartedly follow and respect Kim Jong Un in order to “build a great nation.” The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Realtime Blog summarized it, saying that it makes only two points about the photo: “(1) let’s not get too hung up about having a functioning electrical grid, and (2) the photo actually represents the future of the U.S.” The editorial assures its citizens that “[North Korea’s detractors] clap their hands and get loud over a satellite picture of our city with not much light, but the essence of society is not on flashy lights.” Essentially, this brutal dictatorship equates a basic human need such as electricity to something “flashy” and denies that this photo is any sort of proof of failure. (more…)

On February 7th, Christopher Booker of Britain’s The Telegraph caused a stir with his column entitled “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever.” Booker remarked:

When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically “adjusted” to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.

Two weeks ago, under the headline “How we are being tricked by flawed data on global warming”, I wrote about Paul Homewood, who, on his Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog, had checked the published temperature graphs for three weather stations in Paraguay against the temperatures that had originally been recorded. In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.

This was only the latest of many examples of a practice long recognised by expert observers around the world – one that raises an ever larger question mark over the entire official surface-temperature record.

This morning, Jordan Ballor – Acton Institute Research Fellow and Executive Editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality – spoke with Austin Hill on Faith Radio’s Austin Hill in the Morning show to discuss this allegation and other questions that have been raised about the truthfulness of scientists in this and other fields. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
By

How Economic Freedom Reduces Poverty
Kim Holmes, The Daily Signal

Suppose someone told you there were over two decades of economic data showing the secret of success for every nation in the world and that a Nobel laureate in economics inspired the methodology that was used to analyze that data. Would you sit up and listen?

Pope Francis faces a big week in his effort to reform the Vatican
David Gibson, Religion News Service

Pope Francis has begun what could be a key week for his reformist papacy, starting with meetings with his hand-picked kitchen cabinet of nine senior cardinals, who are developing plans to overhaul the Roman Curia, the papal civil service that has been plagued with crisis and dysfunction.

Five Bleak Facts on Black Opportunity
Richard V. Reeves and Edward Rodrigue , Brookings

In terms of opportunity, there are still two Americas, divided by race. Five facts show how far we still have to go.

Many states have cracked down on payday loans. Here’s how lenders still get away with it.
Jeff Guo, Washington Post

Payday lenders are a slippery bunch. In recent years, several states have passed laws curtailing these kinds of loans, which often charge triple-digit interest rates and tend to be a last resort for the poor